Rested, locked, and loaded.
The Jacksonville Jaguars come off their bye week perhaps healthier than they’ve been all season, and the timing couldn’t be better as they reach the back half of the season where there isn’t much room for error.
Here’s the matchups I’ll be paying attention to for this Sunday:
QB Nick Foles vs. HC Frank Reich
A little unorthodox — usually I’d pick the opposing playmaker at safety opposite the quarterback. While Malik Hooker is finally healthy for the Colts and looking to make up for some lost time this season and rookie Khari Willis may be one of the most under-the-radar players in the NFL this year, this match up ultimately is for the (former) birds.
We’ve heard about all the respect and admiration that Foles and Reich have for each other, but as Foles’ former coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reich knows every last thing about Foles — what he likes, and what he doesn’t like, and more. Sprinkle in the rust that Foles is likely going to have to shake off against a top-10 defensive unit in the NFL and this could be a matchup that immensely favors the Colts.
RB Leonard Fournette vs. LB Darius Leonard
Will we start seeing some more play designs with Fournette as a pass catcher? This was a popular theme all throughout training camp before Foles’ injury and could be the prescription for remedying the Jaguars’ red zone maladies.
Unfortunately for Fournette, the Colts employ a “Maniac” in the second level of their defense who has the sideline to sideline speed to shut Fournette down in man coverage and accelerate into the hole to beat Fournette before he can reach the second level.
WR Dede Westbrook vs. CB Kenny Moore
Similar to the Fournette-in-the-passing-game storylines throughout training camp, another storyline that was developing before Foles went down was the rapport he was building with Dede Westbrook. After missing the London game, Westbrook seems to be ready to roll this week and will be in the mix to try and create the type of production that many fantasy football analysts were projecting before the season began.
If Westbrook lines up in the slot, the guy across from him will be Kenny Moore, who is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the league. Keep an eye on All-Pro Chris Conley this week as well now that he gets “his guy” back under center.
OT Jawaan Taylor/OT Cam Robinson vs. DE Justin Houston
People forget that Houston is only 30 years old. People also forget that Houston has at least one sack in each of the last five games for the Colts. People also forget that Houston averages 1.5 sacks per game in his career against the Jaguars.
In fact, Houston is only 2.5 sacks away from eclipsing the most sacks he’s had in a season since his fabled 22.0 sack year in 2014.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Justin Houston is a problem and although a two-week healthier Robinson and an ascending Taylor are promising bookends, I don’t feel great about the matchup this weekend. Honestly, I’ll be surprised if the Jaguars get double digit points on offense this week, Foles or not.
DE Calais Campbell/DE Josh Allen vs. OT Braden Smith
Much like Taylor, Smith is a promising starter who is still developing, so the matchup against Campbell’s experience and Allen’s ethereal athletic ability is one that favors the Jaguars. The problem, really, is the interior. While Taven Bryan seems to be evolving from a Magikarp to a Gyarados, he’s simply not going to get much going against the interior trio of Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Mark Glowinski. Here’s to hoping Bryan could keep up his great production in run defense (8th highest run defending defensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus) and leave the edges to Yannick Ngakoue, Campbell, and Allen.
LB Myles Jack vs. RB Marlon Mack
With all the injuries to the Colts receivers (I’ll get into that in a second), Reich is likely going to lean heavily on the run game this week to get the offense going. Mack has been one of the most efficient runners in the NFL this year, and with an interior offensive line that can generate ample push like the Colts trio, it’s going to be crucial for Jack and the WILL to be disciplined in their run fits and not get fooled by misdirection. The Jaguars’ coaches have said that Jack has had some great practices recently in regards to getting everyone organized and they have also lauded Quincy Williams, now healthy from a hamstring. Goode probably starts, but just from reading the tea leaves, the team may be open to giving Williams another shot at some point this year.
CB A.J. Bouye vs. WR Zach Pascal
With T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, and Devin Funchess (IR, not ready to return) out for this game, the cupboard is bare for the Colts at wide receiver. Pascal may not be a household name, but he has been absolutely clutch as a breakout player for the Colts this year. Even though Pascal has been a pleasant surprise for Indianapolis, let’s not put him in the realm of Deandre Hopkins, so Bouye should be able to take care of business this week. What worries me is not the wide receivers, but the tight end group for the Colts. I expect Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle to run rampant across the middle of the field this week and I expect Todd Wash to use heavy zone concepts to try and keep those guys in check.
S Ronnie Harrison vs. QB Jacoby Brissett
Brissett missed last week with an MCL sprain and the team lost to the Miami Dolphins without him. Brissett may not be a top-third tier quarterback in this league, but he is much better than casual NFL fans give him credit for due to his accuracy and decision-making. Even though Brissett isn’t 100% healthy, I don’t expect his knee to affect him much this week with the quality of the five blockers ahead of him.